Most women take folic acid supplements during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. But did you know that some researchers believe that this practice could put your child at increased risk for developing asthma?

Folic Acid Supplements

The benefits taking folic acid supplements while pregnant have long been recognized, causing doctors to recommend this step for most patients who are expecting. However, researchers at the Research Centre for the Early Origins of Health and Disease at the Robinson Institute in Australia have discovered that while folic acid can prevent some problems, it may also be to blame for causing others, including childhood asthma.

Timing is Everything

The key to whether you get the good results or the bad from folic acid seems to depend on the timing of when an expectant mother takes this supplement. According to the research findings, women who use folic acid supplements early in their pregnancies aren't likely to put their babies at increased risk for asthma, while women who take it toward the end of their pregnancies have children at higher risk for this respiratory condition.

In fact, the study found an increased likelihood of asthma in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old whose mothers took folic acid later in pregnancy when compared with children of mothers who didn't use this supplement during the end of their pregnancies. This information was included in the American Journal of Epidemiology in November of 2009.

The researchers believe that this side effect of taking folic acid supplements could explain an increase in the number of childhood asthma cases in Australia and several other countries, making it important to take these findings seriously.

More about Folic Acid Supplements

But while folic acid late in pregnancy may be dangerous, keep in mind that this supplement continues to be crucial in the early stages of fetus development in order to prevent neural tubal birth defects.

That's why public health guidelines recommend that women take 400 micrograms of folic acid on a daily basis prior to getting pregnant, as well as during the first trimester. Researchers stress that continuing to follow these guidelines is important.  But they also caution women to remember that taking the supplement for longer is where the risk of childhood asthma problems seems to be highest.

To head off this negative outcome, future best practices may be expanded to include advising women who are expecting to use folic acid early on but to stay away from it during in the latter part of pregnancy.

What this Means for You

If you're expecting a child or plan to get pregnant in the near future, it's important to talk to your doctor to find out exactly how long you should take folic acid supplements for the best and safest outcome for you and your unborn child. With proper guidance, you can ensure you get the full benefits of folic acid without putting you or your baby at risk.


American Journal of Epidemiology

Medical News Today